BETHLEHEM Wally Jones hears music from above. That’s the only way he can explain his unusual knack for composition and melody.
“I don’t want to get overly religious, but I know the sounds come from heaven,” said the 70-year-old Selkirk resident.
Jones has been playing music since he was a boy, often copying what he heard on the radio until he finally begged his foster mother to allow him to take lessons at the age of 15. A few years later, he became the American Organ Guild’s scholarship winner to study with the “renowned” musician Elmaer A. Tidmarsh, organist at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.
He has since played hundreds of concerts as a pianist and organist, but in his later years has taken to using his talent to give back to the community. He plays each month at the Albany County Veteran’s Hospital, the Villa Mary at St. Peters Nursing Home, Delmar Place and Beverwyck Senior Living, as well as being the organist for both the Westerlo and Clarksville Reformed Churches.
“The best way for me to give back is through music,” he said. “When I play, I pray.”
In September, Jones will give his fourth benefit performance in the Capital District. To help raise funds for the Venture Churches Food Pantry at the First Reformed Church of Bethlehem, Jones has brought together 14 local musicians, including singers, trumpeters, drummers, guitarists and a bagpipe player.
Jones said his last fundraiser was last fall to raise money for the victims of Tropical Storm Irene in the town of Livingstonville. So many people attended the concert, a traffic jam caused police to be called to direct cars. The 300 people in attendance donated nearly $4,000 in a collection hat.
“At a Wally concert, I always make sure the money is counted before the last song is performed so people leave knowing how much they have helped and what their contributions mean,” he said.